Imagens da página

who may well be termed the hero of the Lowlands. How is it, I wonder, that the daring deeds of Highlanders of all nations appeal so much more to most poetic and prose writers, and to the multitude generally, than the equally valiant achievements of the Lowlanders? Was not the long struggle of the Dutch for freedom as heroic and as worthy of laudatory song as that of the Swiss mountaineers ?

The landlord of our inn pointed out to us the site of the castle of the Wakes in a field not far from the market-place. “Some dungeons had been discovered there many years ago," we were informed, “but now there are no remains of any masonry visible," and we found it as the landlord said. All that we observed on the spot were some grass-grown mounds, manifestly artificial, and the traces of the moat. Close by is a large pool of water, supplied by a never-failing spring that bubbles up from below; this pool overflows into a wide stream “that goes right round the town.” Kingsley describes the site as being “not on one of the hills behind, but on the dead flat meadow, determined doubtless by the noble fountain, bourn, or brunne, which rises among the earthworks, and gives its name to the whole town. In the flat meadow bubbles up still the great pool of limestone water, crystal clear, suddenly and at once ; and runs away, winter and summer, a stream large enough to turn many a mill, and spread perpetual verdure through the flat champaign lands.”

What struck us, however, as being the most interesting feature in Bourn—which though a very ancient town has an aggravating air of newness



generally about it, even our little inn was quite modern—was its old railway station. I must confess, at the same time, that I do not remember ever having admired a railway station before for its beauty. But this is, or was, not a modern railway station but a genuine sixteenth-century one! I am writing seriously, let me explain the mystery. When the line was being constructed it passed close alongside of an ancient and charmingly picturesque Elizabethan mansion, known as the Old Red Hall, which for a long while was the residence of the Digby family, who were implicated in the Gunpowder Plot : it was here, according to tradition, that the Guy Fawkes conspiracy was originated in 1604. The intention was, I understand, in due course to pull this ancient structure down and to erect a station on its site. But sundry antiquaries, learning what was proposed to be done, arose in arms against such a proceeding and prevailed; so for once I am glad to record that the picturesque scored in the struggle with pure utilitarianism. A rare victory! The oldtime building, often painted by artists and appearing in more than one Academy picture, was happily spared from destruction and was converted into a very quaint, if slightly dark and inconvenient railway station : its hall doing duty as a bookingoffice, one of its mullion-windowed chambers being turned into a waiting-room, another into a cloakroom, and so forth. Thus matters remained until a year or so ago, when a brand new station, convenient and ugly, was constructed a little farther along the line, and the old house, one of the finest remaining


Elizabethan red-brick mansions in the kingdom, became the stationmaster's home-happy stationmaster! So it was that until quite recently Bourn boasted the unique possession of a medieval railway station !

Passing Bourn church on the way back to our inn we observed a notice attached to the door, of a tax for Fen drainage and the maintenance of the dykes, a shilling an acre being levied for this purpose “and so on in rateable proportion for any less quantity." This called to our mind the ceaseless care that is needed to prevent these rich lands from flooding and becoming mere unprofitable marshes again, and the amount of the tax does not seem excessive for the security afforded thereby. On a tombstone in the graveyard here, we came upon, for the third time this journey, the often-quoted epitaph to a blacksmith, beginning :

My sledge and hammer lie reclined,
My bellows too have lost their wind,
My fire's extinct, my forge decayed,
And in the dust my vice is laid.

This familiar inscription has been stated by guidebook compilers to be found in this churchyard and that; the lines, however, had a common origin, being first written by the poet Hayley for the epitaph of one William Steel, a Sussex blacksmith, and cut on his tombstone in the churchyard of Felpham near Bognor. The inscription at once became popular, and was freely copied all over England, like the ubiquitous and intensely irritating “ Diseases sore



long time he bore, Physicians were in vain,” etc. In a similar manner, though to a far less extent, the quaint epitaph that formerly existed in a private chapel in Tiverton churchyard, to Edward Courtenay, the third Earl of Devon, and his Countess, appears to have been copied with variations. Writing early in the seventeenth century, Risdon, in his Survey of Devonshire, gives this epitaph thus :

Hoe ! hoe! who lies here?
'Tis I, the good Erle of Devonshire,
With Kate my wife to mee full dere,
Wee lyved togeather fyfty-fyve yere.

That wee spent we had,
That wee lefte wee loste,
That wee gave wee have. 1419.

This appeared in old Doncaster church in the following form :

Hoe ! hoe ! who is heare ?
I Robin of Doncaster and Margaret my feare.

That I spent I had,
That I gave I have,
That I left I lost. A.D. 1579.

A near relation to this may be found on a brass at Foulsham near Reepham in Norfolk, that reads :

Of all I had, this only now I have,
Nyne akers wh unto ye poore I gave,
Richard Fenn who died March ye 6. 1565.

But now that I have got upon the attractive subject of epitaphs again, I must control my pen or I shall fill up pages unawares : already I find I have strayed far away from Lincolnshire.


A pleasant road — Memories—Shortening of names—Health-drink

ing—A miller and his mill-A rail-less town—Changed times and changed ways—An Elizabethan church clock—A curious coincidence - Old superstitions — Satire in carving — “The Monks of Old.”

FROM Bourn we decided to drive to Sleaford, an easy day's stage of eighteen miles, baiting half-way at Falkingham. Upon asking the ostler about the road, it struck us as curious to hear him remark that it was a hilly one ; so accustomed had we become to the level roads of the Fens that for the moment we had forgotten that Lincolnshire is a county of heaths, hills, and waving woods as well as of fens, dykes, and sluggish streams.

The aspect of the country we passed through that morning had completely changed from that of yesterday; it was pleasantly undulating, and even the brake was brought into requisition once or twice, for the first time since we left London. Hedges again resumed their sway, and we realised their tangled beauties all the more for our recent absence from them ; sturdy oaks and rounded elms took the place of the silvery flickering willows and of the tall thin poplars, and smooth-turfed meadows that of the coarse-grassed marsh-lands. The general


« AnteriorContinuar »